Dear Queer Directions Community,
It is with deep sadness that I write to confirm that the sixth annual Queer Directions: Queer Care and Radical Hospitality has been cancelled. Yesterday, the panelists brought to our attention that our format was not accessible. We relied on a “by request” model for ASL interpretation of the plenary event. When we did not receive any requests on our registration form for ASL interpretation, we did not hire anyone to do this work. Instead, we scheduled professional live transcription to be delivered to screens in real time, as is our standard practice. We also record the event and then hire another transcriber to watch the video and make corrections to the transcript. Then we upload the video with the corrected captions to our YouTube channel with a link to the corrected text transcript. Nonetheless, we fully and firmly acknowledge that this was insufficient, and I offer my deepest apologies to everyone.
In addition to the large public event, we had organized a classroom event for a small group of our graduate students and upper-level undergraduate students. For this event, we asked for access requests in the application and had planned for auto-transcription but did not have a live transcriber or an ASL interpreter assigned to it. This, of course, follows typical University classroom protocols which, as I think we all know, are entirely inadequate and inaccessible.
As was pointed out, this was a significant failure on our part because it does not embrace a model of universal access in which necessary tools, technologies, and other practices are present at all events without the need for request. We agree that no one should have to request a basic human right. We should have done better, and in the future we will. We have learned from this, and we hope other organizers for university events can learn from this as well.
For these reasons, the panelist Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, author of Carework: Dreaming Disability Justice (2018) and many other books, made the decision to withdraw from the event as both an intentional choice and political strategy. We are grateful to Leah for their leadership on this. We would like to post their full statement of withdrawal on our website and will do so shortly once/if we receive permission.
We very much hope to reschedule this event at a time when these access issues can be addressed effectively. Going forward, the Bonham Centre commits to learning more about access practices and to offering ASL for major events not on a by-request model. In the meanwhile, on behalf of myself and the Bonham Centre, we wish you the very best of everything.
In gratitude and solidarity,